No pain, no gain? Experts from The Portland Hospital take a look at the different pain relief options available in labour
While most of us just can’t wait to see our baby for the very first time, the thought of going through labour can be more than a little daunting. Understanding the options for pain relief can help ease the anxiety that the vast majority experience.
[quote_box_right]“Naturally, many have some worries about pain during childbirth,” explains Elaine Bellamy, one of the senior midwives at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children. “Whether they’ll be able to cope with the pain, or if they’ll lose control, is one of the most common worries.”[/quote_box_right] It is important to know about the different options available at your chosen hospital and to write down your preferences in your birth plan, as you may find that you want more pain relief than planned.
Elaine, and consultant obstetric anesthetist at The Portland Hospital, Dr Nicholas Parry, tell us about the various options.
What Are Your Pain Relief Options?
Experts, consultant obstetric anesthetist at The Portland Hospital, Dr Nicholas Parry, and midwife, Elaine Bellamy, explain:
Its full name is: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Small battery-powered stimulators called electrodes are taped to your back and pulse with gentle electrical currents. The currents interfere with the pain signals from your spinal cord to your brain. TENS machines can be hired or bought from large pharmacies. “TENS can be very effective for some women, providing you put it on early enough, as it has a cumulative effect,” says Elaine. “You can walk around with the TENS attached, but obviously can’t get into the birthing pool.”
GAS AND AIR (ENTONOX)
“This is a clear gas – half nitrous oxide and half oxygen – breathed in through a mouthpiece. It will not take the pain away, but it will relax you, and help you cope with the pain more effectively,” says Elaine. “It’s a popular choice and can be used at any stage of labour.”
“These can be useful for some women. They can take the edge off the labour pains, and make you sleepy.” says Elaine. “However, there can be side effects. If pethidine is given towards the end of labour, it may not have had a chance to wear off and may affect the baby’s breathing at delivery.” So it is important to talk this over with your medical team.
“An epidural is an extremely safe procedure,” explains Dr Nicholas Parry. “It allows the medical team to place local anesthetic and other pain-killing medicines near the nerves that carry the pain sensations. The main risk is that the epidural might not be fully effective, and the patient may develop a headache or have a ‘bruised’ nerve.”
There are some simple things you can do to ease the pain and make you feel more relaxed. “Movement is a very effective form of pain relief and speeds the process along,” says Elaine. “Alternative remedies can also be very effective. But you have to really believe that they can work for you – the power of the mind can make a difference. Put your favourite music, films or games on your mobile phone. And have a birthing partner – your husband, partner or mum.”
Read more from our experts here:
Louisa Van den Bergh reminisces over her memorable pregnancy milestones here
What to expect and how to prepare when bringing baby home for the first time here